Holding the Space: Fever Dreams II
by John Shanahan, Hypnagogue
With this second offering in the FEVER DREAMS trilogy, Roach goes deep into the collective primitive psyche -- perhaps as deep as he's ever gone -- conjuring a thick, lush, intricate weave of tribal, holotropic grooves wrapped around Byron Metcalf's relentlessly perfect shamanic percussion and spiked with hauntingly keening vocals from Jennifer Grais. As this 72-minute story unfolds, HOLDING THE SPACE: FEVER DREAMS II guides the listener through some of the most vivid, affecting soundworlds Roach has ever created.
The journey starts suddenly, with the abrupt, growling opening chord of "The Wounded Healer" greeting the listener with a dissonant, disjointed feel. There is the sense of something being not quite right, of being fragmented. "Healer" eventually winds into a smoother feel before giving way to the slow, shuffling dance of "Energy Well". This percussion-driven piece moves from a tribal-drumming feel to a more frenetic, sequenced mode, building and enervating. It is unstoppably empowering. And then, as it reaches a truly high point, it bursts, releasing the listener, and ushering in what is a genuinely amazing piece of music.
"Opening the Space" simply astounds from the start -- more so knowing that the only instruments on the track are a well-processed six-foot agave didgeridoo and Grais' emotive, wordless chanting. Plaintive and prayerful, it draws the listener deeper into the experience. The didgeridoo gives way to Metcalf's shamanic frame drum as it takes center on "Heart's Core". Grais keeps the prayer-feel flowing on top of Roach's dark sound-sworls as this one wends its way deeper into the soul. It has a very distinct potency. It is, in a word, transportive.
HOLDING THE SPACE: FEVER DREAMS II jumps back and forth between powerfully beat-driven soundworlds and more flow-oriented grooves. "Fires Burning" might have been designed to let your heart rate slow back down. The drums slow as dark, lush tendrills of sound -- Roach's "nomadic grooves" -- rise softly upward. "Metamorphosis" gently builds , a careful mix of intense drumming and guitar atmospheres. It straddles both of the musical worlds here with a decidedly positive air about it. The Healer's story -- and recovery -- culminates in "Holding the Space", 20 minutes of glorious Roach/Metcalf shamanic alchemy. Beautifully, the whole thing ends on a fading, rising note. The journey and the healing are complete, and the listener is ready to hit "play" again immediately.
Make no mistake: This is a landmark recording, the tribal-ambient work by which all others will be judged going forward. This is Steve Roach at his absolute best, putting forward a geniunely brilliant, emotive, and moving piece of work.